Get involved: Send your news, views, pictures and video by texting SUPIC to 80360 or email us.
Sussex Lifeboat volunteers risking their lives to save yours
They are the heroes of the seas, who go out in any condition when lives are in danger.
Not only have Sussex’s lifeboat crews rescued people stranded on a lighthouse and from a burning boat, they have stopped a dolphin from getting beached and saved an exhausted swimmer.
Despite figures set to be released later this month expected to show that crews were called fewer times last year, reporter Kimberly Middleton was pleased to find out that interest in becoming a volunteer is still high.
In the middle of the night a car plunged from Beachy Head.
RNLI volunteers, unable to get their lifeboat ashore, were forced to swim to the shoreline where the man, trapped inside the vehicle, was still alive.
They battled the rising tide as they waited for the air ambulance to arrive.
Despite their best efforts, hours of careful work and relentless determination, the man later died in hospital.
The volunteer crews give up their time for free to be on call at every hour of the day and night, prepared to drop everything and risk their lives in difficult conditions to help people stricken at sea.
Being called to deal with serious and tragic jobs is not uncommon.
A hobby fisherman was saved from his burning boat off of the coast of Eastbourne in December and weeks before a fisherman was taken ashore after crushing his hand in trawler equipment.
Newhaven crews rescued the first Dutch man to go into space, Wubbo Johannes Ockels, when the astronaut’s eco-friendly ship Ecolution got into trouble.
In Littlehampton crews frequently rescue dogs from the river bank, mainly to stop their owners attempting to get the dogs and risk being dragged into the fast flowing River Arun.
However, some of the rescues were more light-hearted.
Crews were politely told to leave when searching for missing walkers – who transpired just to be lagging behind their walking group.
Two workers had to be rescued from the Royal Sovereign Lighthouse after the boat transporting them broke down before their colleague, who had all the food supplies, could also get to the tower.
An exhausted swimmer clinging on to a buoy to get his breath back only agreed to be rescued when he was assured there was no cost involved.
And the report of a lifejacket in the sea near Newhaven turned out to be a child’s plastic sit-in car floating in the water.
Putting their lives on the line is also second nature for volunteers.
Steve Smith, coxswain at Shoreham, said: “I never give it a thought when I’m out. I just think adrenaline kicks in and you have got a job to do.
“Maybe afterwards if you’ve had a close call you’ll think about it a bit more.”
Brighton volunteer of two years Virginia Billcliff admitted to holding tight to the release cord on her lifejacket on one occasion, as the boat pitch and rolled in the stormy conditions in dusk in October.
The potentially treacherous work does not put people off, with a recruitment drive by the Shoreham team in 2012 getting a phenomenal 78 applications.
Despite a long list of anecdotes, figures released later this month look set to show less incidents in 2012 compared to previous years.
Eastbourne Lifeboat Station crews were called out about 110 times, down on a busy 2010 and 2011.
Brighton crews were called to more than 60 jobs, including helping a lone crew member whose yacht got pinned against the city’s marina wall and someone who had jumped from Palace Pier.
Nick White from Littlehampton Lifeboat said tough economic times meant people were not spending time – and money – on their boats.
Shoreham’s Mr Smith said the crew have also had a quiet year: “I don’t know if it’s down to the weather or people taking notice of the RNLI sea safety campaigns.”
Eastbourne Coxswain Mark Sawyer said the inclement weather meant there were less calls to people in difficulty on dinghies and liloes.
He said: “The only people who did go out were the hardy sailors.
“But the weather put a lot of extra strain on the vessels which caused extra problems.
“With the economic climate we have also had boats running out of fuel.
“People can’t afford to keep their tanks full but the engines had to work harder in bad conditions and ran empty.”
For more information about the RNLI visit www.rnli.org.uk.
See the latest news headlines from The Argus:
- Bollywood music veteran Jyotsna Srikanth gig to be streamed online
- Fifties frolicking to promote Spiegeltent in Old Steine
- Man cut free from car following early morning Albourne crash
- Kemp Town school founder commemorated with blue plaque
- Flasher in Chichester wanted by police